Book Review: David M. Goldenberg, Black and Slave: The Origins and History of the Curse of Ham in Studies in the Bible and Its Reception, Vol 10, Edited by Dale C. Allison, Jr., Christine Helmer, Thomas Romer, Choon-Leong Seow, Barry Dov Walfish, Eric Ziolkowski, 2107, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
Ever wondered about the genesis of the devastating and patently faulty belief that, based on the story of Noah’s curse in Genesis 9, blacks have been afflicted with eternal servitude? Here is a book that ably traces the history and development of the Curse of Ham.
According to the book, the nascence of the belief is two black skin etiologies, one, ark-based (chapters two and three), the other, tent-based (chapter four). Prominent among the ark-based etiologies are the rabbinic etiology and its Muslim derivative. The rabbinic tale, alluded to later by the western scholar Guillaume de Postel but with an added rationale and application to the Ethiopians, claims that during the flood Noah’s son, Ham, was turned black for breaking, alongside the dog and the raven, a divinely installed hiatus on sexual engagement while in the ark. The Muslim derivative similarly depicts black skin as punishment for Ham’s engagement in sexual intercourse with his wife against the intent of the gender apartheid implemented by Noah in the ark. The tent-based etiology finds representation in, among others, Ibn Masud (d. 653): “Noah was bathing and saw his son [Ham] looking at him and said to him, ‘Are you watching me bathe? May God change your color!’ And he is the ancestor of the Sudan (i.e., the blacks).”
Alignment with the biblical story, totally absent in the rabbinic tale (Ham wasn’t the one cursed and the venue of his infraction was not the ark), sort of present in the tent-based etiologies at least in as far as the venue is concerned, is also present to some extent in a 3rd-4th century work (Cave of Treasure) (chapter five) where there is the recognition that it was Canaan who was cursed, not Ham. Cave of Treasures extends the reach of the curse to cover Canaan’s descendants who were thought to include dark skinned Africans. According to Goldenberg, this marks the first time that blackness is explicitly associated with servitude.
The next stage in the development of the Curse of Ham was the introduction of the idea of a dual impact of the curse (aka dual Curse of Ham) resulting in both servitude and blackness (chapter six). The character turned black was Canaan in the case of Christian authors [e.g., Ibn al-Tayyib: He was commenting on the biblical curse of slavery, to which he added that when Noah cursed Canaan with slavery, “Canaan’s body became black”] and Jewish authors [e.g., Yemenis Nathaniel ibn Yesha’ya’s commentary on “And let Canaan be his slave” (Gen 9:26): “They will be black and ugly and God’s presence will not rest on them”] and Ham in the case of Muslim authors [e.g., The Persian Bahr al-favaid speaks of Noah “invoking evil” on Ham “so that his face was blackened”]. According to Goldenberg, the Ham/Canaan dichotomy is explained by the religions’ different bases for the Curse of Ham interpretation. The Jewish and Christian accounts are closely linked to the biblical narrative which names Canaan as the object of Noah’s curse. The Muslim stories, on the other hand, are not linked in these ways to the biblical text, nor were they based on a direct encounter with the Bible, which was considered corrupt.
The Curse of Ham did not appear in Europe in its dual form until the 16th century (chapter eight). Prior to that it showed up in its non-dual form (chapter seven) in, among other writings, Chronicles of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea (1453) and Rabbi Moses Arragel of Castile (1384) who in his comments on Gen 9:25 (And Canaan was a slave of slaves) wrote: “some say these are the Black Moors who are everywhere captives.” Even though the dual curse as it appears in Europe [e.g., Diego de Yepes, a bishop in Spain, wrote that environment is not the cause of the change in color, but Noah’s curse of Ham, which changed him from red to black] resembles Muslim writings in that it is similarly Ham-centric, Goldenberg argues that the vast majority of Europeans writers of the 16th and 17th centuries were not directly influenced by the Muslim Noah narratives, but were reflecting an accepted Christian hermeneutic tradition of the dual Curse of Ham
Beginning in the 1700’s, the curse of Ham of the dual variety, emerged finally and most vociferously in America as justification for the enslavement of blacks (chapter nine). Use of the Curse of Ham to justify black slavery as opposed to explaining dark skin ended up being much greater in America than in Europe
To What Extent Does the Catholic Practice of Beatification and Canonization such as that of Sister Irene “Nyaatha” Dovetail with or Depart from the Scriptures
Even-though it’s been on-going as far back as a millennium ago, it took Africa’s first beatification ceremony conducted on May 23rd 2015 in this non-Catholic’s “backyard” for him to snap to attention. Of special interest to us amidst the extensive media coverage (print and otherwise) both locally and internationally in the weeks leading to and including the climactic moment when the Papal Legate delivered the relevant papal decree of His Holiness Pope Francis I was the mention of terminologies that seem to echo the Scriptures. Now that the rhapsodies of joy have dissipated and the concourse of Catholic faithful has melted away from the grounds of Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology (Nyeri County, Kenya), the site of the beatification ceremony, this sounds as an opportune time to pose and then seek to answer the following question: How does the use of the terms “blessed,” and “saint” within Catholicism compare with the Bible?
Use of the term “Blessed” and “Saint” within Catholicism Compared with the Bible
Use of the term “Blessed” within Catholicism Compared with the Bible
The etymology of “beatification” is traceable to the twin Latin terms facere (”to make”) and beatus (“blessed”). To be the subject of an inquest on the possibility of being recognized as or made blessed, the candidate in view must first of all be deceased. So for instance the beatification of Sister “Nyaatha” (formerly Aurelia Giacomina Mercede) commenced with an initiation of an inquiry by the Episcopal authority in 1984, a little over half a century after her death in Gikondi. The Episcopal authority in this case was Ceasar Maria Gatimu. , the then Bishop of Nyeri Diocese (now the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Nyeri). The deceased candidate must then pass the muster of a three-pronged inquiry.
First is scrutiny for reputable or famed sanctity evidenced by the presence of virtues of heroic degree. The heroism must appear as a constant feature in the life of the candidate; a few heroic actions do not suffice to establish the manifold excellence of life which constitutes sanctity. On the other hand, numerous heroic acts of each and every virtue are not required. There must be many heroic acts of Faith, Hope, and especially Charity, but heroic acts of the other virtues are required only in so far as the individual had opportunities to exercise them. While there is no rigid rule as to the length of time during which the candidate must have persevered in the practice of eminent virtue, the period must be sufficient to justify the practice being described as permanent and habitual.
Second is proof of miracles associated with the candidate posthumously, the number of which range from two to four depending on whether the evidence of practice of virtues is sure or based on hearsay. If the miracle(s) is (are) of a medical nature, the opinion of two physicians is sought to prove that (a) the malady was a serious one; (b) the cure was not due to natural remedies; (c) it was instantaneous or at least sudden; (d) it was permanent.
Third, processes de non cultu is instituted to prove that the decrees of Urban VIII regarding the prohibition of public worship of the departed individual being considered for beatification have been obeyed.
A fourth inquiry is necessary only if there are writings attributable to the candidate. The object here is to discover, firstly if the writings contain anything contrary to faith or morals, and, secondly, whether they furnish any indication of the character, the virtues or the defects of the writer.
The declaration “Blessed” in the Bible is the English translation of (a) passive (pual) participle of ברך (or its Greek equivalent, εὐλογέω) (b) the adjective εὐλογητο and (c) the particle אַשְׁרֵי or the adjective (μακάριος). Just as the Catholics name those of their own who have been declared beatified (e.g., Pope John Paul II, Miriam Teresa, Mother Teresa), so does the Bible. Named Biblical characters who were regarded as blessed include Abraham (Gen 14:19), Asher (Deut 33:24), Jael (Judges 5:24), Abigail (1 Sam 25:33), Boaz (Ruth 2:19), and Simon Peter (Matt 16:17). Different from the Catholics, however, is the absence of a layered process leading to the declaration– no promoter of judicial inquiries required to set the ball rolling; no series of meetings tasked with vetting responsibilities. Additionally the “avenues” through which people can be declared blessed are relatively numerous– anybody qualifies as blessed if for instance he or she is insulted because of the name of Christ (1 Pet 4:14; Matt 5:11), perseveres under trial (Jam 1:2), engages in peacemaking (Matt 5:9), practices meekness (Matt 5:5), makes the Lord his or her trust (Ps 40:4; 84:12; Jer. 17:7), or shares one’s food with the poor (Prov. 22:9). Performing a miracle is not listed as one of the entry points to becoming blessed. Neither is death considered a prerequisite for being considered blessed.
Use of the term “Saint” within Catholicism Compared with the Bible
As per the Catholics, the road to canonization is through beatification. To be considered for sainthood, therefore, one must first of all have been beatified. Once declared blessed, all it takes is verification of one more miracle at which point the Vicar of Christ readies himself to utter the canonization formula following the ringing of the bells of St Peter. The formula calls for the inscription of the name of the blessed-now-turned saint into the Roll of Saints and universalizes the veneration of the new saint.
“Saint” appears as the equivalent of קָדוֹשׁ in the Old Testament (cf. the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon) and as the rendering of ἅγιος in both the Septuagint and the New Testament (cf. Mounce Greek Dictionary). Most of its occurrence is in the New Testament with the earliest instance there being Acts 9:13 (cf. 26:10). The saints in that chapter are described as those who call on the name of the Lord (9:21). And since, according to Acts 2:21 (cf. Rom 10:13), it is those who call on the name of the Lord who will be saved, the saints are analogous to believers. Similarly “saints” in 1 Cor. 6:2 refers to believers considering that they are contrasted with unbelievers in v. 6 and the ungodly in v. 1. The same is true of “saints” in Ephesians 1:1. Of them it is said twelve verses later that they “were included in Christ” when they “heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation.” Having “believed” they “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (v. 13). Reference to “saints” as “brothers” (2 Cor. 1:8) or “sisters” (Rom 16:1) is further proof of substitutability with believer(s) since the terms also describe the relationship between believers (cf. Matt 12:49; Acts 1:16; 9:17; 15:36) and not just blood or genetically connected relatives.
Sainthood in the Scriptures, therefore, is not the purview of a select few but is in actuality synonymous with a Christian. Further none of the references on “saints” suppose that the individuals in view are named as such posthumously. For sure the individuals who died in the hand of Lady Babylon in Rev. 18 perished as saints (v. 24) and were not so declared after their death.
To our initial question of whether the Catholic Practice of Beatification and Canonization dovetails with or departs from the Scriptures, we conclude that the overlap starts and stops with the vocabulary. Meaning-wise, it turns out that the shared vocabulary is at best homonymic (same spelling, different meaning) and at worst contradictory.
About the book
The thesis of this book is threefold. First, contrary to the increasingly popular understanding that the nature of Ham’s offense was sexual, we argue that this offense was nonsexual, despite the presence of the phrase (“to see the nakedness of”) in Genesis 9:22. More specifically, Ham’s offense had less to do with seeing his father naked—the seeing was accidental. Rather, his fault lay with his choice to disclose to his brothers what he had seen as opposed to covering the nakedness of his father. Second, the most probable fulfillment of the Noah’s curse is (1) the servitude of the Gibeonites; (2) the enslavement of the Canaanites following the conquest; or (3) the dominance of Rome and Greece over Tyre and Carthage… read more
AuthorHouseBooks on Sep 24, 2014
Book Review: Carroll, Daniel. “Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
As is the case with Hoffmeier (the author of “The Immigration Crisis”), Daniel Carroll likewise meets the preliminary bipartite credibility test of any discusser of the topic of immigration: at one point he made abroad his abode for a sizable amount of time and has had close social intercourse with immigrants. As a minor he together with his family spent lots of summers immersed in the culture of Guatemala—the birthplace of his mother. Upon graduation from seminary this part Latino and his wife headed back to his “motherland” where he taught at El Seminario Teologico Centroamericano and did not return to Denver Seminary until fifteen years later. His interaction with Hispanics did not stop with his return to Denver. There he helped establish a Spanish-speaking training. He attends Hispanic services and has served on the board of the Alianza Ministerial Hispana.
The target audience of the book are Christians from both the majority and minority culture. The goal of the book is to attempt to offer the divine viewpoint on immigration. The heart of the book is chapters two, three, and four, to which we now turn.
In chapter two, Carroll contends that folks from elsewhere who are abroad with the intent to stay and members of the host country alike are people first and then immigrants or citizens. People are made in the image of God, which means that both the immigrants and the citizens are bearers of God’s image. The implications of this observation in Carrol’s opinion are as follows:
(a) Immigrant have an essential value and possess the potential to contribute to society through their presence, work, and ideas. There would not be a David without Ruth the immigrant. Joseph ended up saving the whole of Egypt from famine
(b) Irrespective of whether they are here with or without the documents the government might mandate, to turn them away or to treat them badly is ultimately a violation against God. Egypt didn’t turn away the migrant patriarch and his family. On the contrary, she was charitable and willing to meet their needs.
(c) One way those of the majority culture can reflect the divine image is to demonstrate compassion for others the same way that God is portrayed as compassion not only toward His own people, but also to those beyond the community of faith.
(d) Immigrants should value the people of this country as those made in God’s image.
Chapter three opens with a brief exploration of the ethics of hospitality in ancient Israel. Hospitality extended to strangers by the likes of Abraham (Gen 18), Laban (Gen 24), Ruel (Exod 2), the concubine’s father (Judges 19), the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4), the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17), Job (31:32) serve as a model to the majority culture in the manner in which it treats (Hispanic) Immigrants. It then surveys Old Testament laws concerning immigrants and other foreigners.
Part of chapter three analyzes the four terms (nokri, zar ger and toshav) used in the Old Testament to refer to outsiders. Accordant with Hoffmeier, Carroll concludes that nokri (including (nekhar and its feminine form) and zar refer to a foreigners in Israel who either have not been in the land very long (e.g., Ittai in 2 Sam 15:19; Ruth) or have not integrated themselves fully into Israelite life. The Law prohibits this kind of foreigner from becoming king (Deut 17:15) and from participating in some of Israel’s rituals (Exod 12:43; Ezek 44:7, 9; Lev 22:25). The third term, toshav, is akin to the previous two in the sense that it refers to foreigners who are similarly not assmiliated. (ger/toshav) To Carroll, the last term in the list of four ger, is not so much a designation of legal status (contra Hoffmeier) as it is an indication of itinerancy; thus his preference for the translation “sojourner.” The “sojourner” unlike the nokri, zar and toshav exhibited a high degree of assimiliation in the spheres of religion, language, law. It is Carroll’s opinion that just as the biblical imperative of caring for the sojourner is binding to the host culture, there exists a scriptural expectation that the sojourner learns the ways, language of the adopted country.
In chapter four, Carroll brings the New Testament to bear on the subject of immigration. While acknowledging that the Gospels are void of explicit teachings on immigration, Carroll argues for the existence of relevant passages. The story of Jesus’ flight to Egypt most certainly resonates with immigrants who have had to flee their homes for fear of their lives. Assuming that the “stranger” in Matt 25:35 refers to a disciple who goes to another land for ministry, the Son of Man and the Father will demand an accounting of the actions of Christians composing a host country towards Christian immigrants.
Moving on to the Epistle of 1 Peter Carroll hypothesizes that besides the accepted perspective that Christians are aliens and strangers in the world because of their faith, they were aliens and strangers in a concrete sense.
Carroll culminates his discussion of immigration vis-à-vis the New Testament with a look at Rom 13. In his opinion, if the Government laws, such as American Immigration Laws, are problematic theologically, humanely, and/or pragmatically, heeding those laws is tantamount to allowing oneself to be shaped by the “pattern of this world” (cf Rom 12:1).
Book Review/ Critique Hoffmeier, James K. “The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible.” Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.
If having spent a considerable amount of time domiciled abroad is a determinant in assessing the credibility of a discusser of the topic of immigration, then James Hoffmeier meets this initial test. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Egypt in the 1950s as an MK (missionary kid). As an adult, he lived in Canada for a decade or so.
If close interaction with immigrants is yet another believability factor, then Hoffmeier gets another check mark. He lives in matrimony with a lady of Chinese heritage. His daughter is wedded to a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines.
However, any affinity felt by a peruser towards the author of “The immigration Crisis” gives way sooner than later to disenchantment, especially if the reader is either illegal or has overstayed his or her visa. To such an audience Hoffmeier offers the same advice that he offered a character in his book named George and agreeably quotes the reaction of certain prospective immigrants waiting in line for their turn: pack up and leave your host country as hard a decision as that may be for it is unjust that while some immigrants have to wait in line for years to enter legally, many others enter or stay illegally.
Seemingly cognizant that the unpalatability of such a stance is bound to not only earn him the label “anti-immigrant,” but possibly also arouse curiosity from his readers as to whether during his stay abroad he comported with the immigration laws of the host country, Hoffmeier is quick to point out that whether as a minor or a major he maintained legal status. As a minor in Egypt his parents did not enter and work in Egypt until they had obtained visas and work permits. Having gotten the permission to work they did not allow their work permit to expire. As a major in Canada wanting to enter Canada he had to undergo a physical exam, fill out countless form, and then wait for months to hear the outcome of his request. Having entered the country legally he maintained legal status throughout his stay there.
Moving on to the substance of the book itself, Hoffmeier begins by specifying his goal as contextually examining immigrant stories and laws in the Bible and bringing to bear the findings of the study to the current immigration crisis not just in the Americas but also in Europe as well.
He then reminds us that disregard for territorial integrity by infiltrators and efforts to seal the border as a way of ensuring respect for national sovereignty dates back to the period before, during, and after Abraham. King Khety of Dynasty 10 found himself having to repel Asiatic semi-nomad infiltrations in search of food and water. A tomb scene (dated 1862 B.C) depicting Abishai and a group of other foreigners being granted authorization to work by an Egyptian governor shows that a visa system was in place in middle Egypt. Besides, the northern border was most secure during this period as per the 1960 B.C. Prophecy of Nerferti—sufficient number of soldiers manned the forts.
Then comes what we consider the heart of the book. The population of any country is made up of citizens and non-citizens. According to Hoffmeier, non-citizens in the Bible can be further grouped into ger/toshav and nekhar/zar. The distinction between the two is that the former regards the land of his sojourning as the new home for a protracted period of time while the latter, a foreigner, does not. Association of the ger with expressions such as “among you” or with you” is an indication of legal presence. Thus Abraham was a legal immigrant not only because he identifies himself as a ger (Gen 23:4) but also because the residents of Hebron acknowledged his status as being one who is “among us” (v. 6). The members of the family of Jacob were legal immigrants in Egypt by virtue of the fact that they not only sought permission to settle in Goshen but permission was granted (Gen 47:6). Moses was a legal immigrant following Jethro’s invitation (Exod 3:1). Extension of invitation coupled with marriage to a citizen renders Ruth a legal resident even though she refers to herself as a nokheriah (the feminine form of nekhar). Joseph (the father of Jesus) in Egypt was a legal immigrant because, as per Hoffmeir, he undoubtedly sought permission to enter the country at one of the many military stations at the border.
Further evidence that the ger had legal standing in the community in a way that the nekhar/zar did not is in the application of the law. Whether for better (positive declarations) or for worse (prohibitions), both the ger and the citizen were held to the same legal standard. Both were prohibited from sacrificing their children to Molech (Lev 20:2). Both were allowed access to a city of refuge for protection following unintentional killing (Josh 20:9). Both, if poor, were eligible for welfare (Lev 19:10; Deut 24:19). At the same time the same law excluded the nekhar/zar while including the ger alongside the citizen. For instance whereas a nekha was forbidden from participating in the Passover (Exod 12:43), the ger was not (v. 48).
Towards the end Hoffmeier interacts with Carroll’s work on the same topic and relays the following counter-points: (a) the claim by Carroll that the starting point in the immigration discourse should be that the immigrant is made in the image of God regardless of whether he or she has proper legal documentation overlooks the fact that the believer is held equally to the truth of Gen 1:27-28 and Rom 13:1-7 (b) Carroll’s attempt to equate American immigration laws as an example of a conflict between secular and sacred laws (cf Acts 4:19) is a matter of special pleading.
In the last chapter Hoffmeier lists the following implications of his study: (1) Nations have the right to determine who enter their land and under what circumstances and which foreigners to confer resident or alien status (2) Nations that receive aliens must not at some future time turn against them mistreat them as the Egyptians did the Israelites or the Americans did the Japanese Americans during World War II (3) Cities and municipalities who offer sanctuary for illegal aliens cannot be equated with the sanctuary cites in the Old cities since biblical sanctuary was only intended to allow the innocent party to get fair hearing and trial, and not for the purpose of sheltering lawbreakers from the authorities (4) Legal immigrants who are needy should be extended governmental social services such as welfare, unemployment, food stamps, job training, and other benefits offered to disadvantages citizens (5) Illegal immigrants should not expect the same privileges from the state whose laws they disregard by virtue of their undocumented status.
As an ex-attendee of the First Baptist Church of Dallas during the tenure of Pastor O. S. Hawkins, I have continued to remotely track happenings within this ecclesia such as pastoral turnovers and tearing down parts of the church’s architecture to allow for the construction of a new mega million sanctuary. Recently the current pastor, Rev. Robert Jeffress, piqued my attention by two sets of utterances pertaining to political endorsements.
His first set of comments were voiced at the Values Voter Summit in Washington on October 2011 when he was called upon to introduce Governor Rick Perry, a presidential candidate in the Republican primary. In the process of the introduction he unapologetically and enthusiastically endorsed Rick Perry over Governor Romney on the grounds that Perry among other things was (a) “a conservative out of deep convictions” as opposed to Romney who he evaluated as “a conservative out of convenience” and (b) “a born-again follower of Jesus Christ as opposed to Romney who he considers “a good, moral person” but nevertheless a member of a “cult.”
By the way one of the reasons that Mormonism is considered a cult is its attitude towards the Bible. As much as Mormonism recognizes the Bible, it holds the Book of Mormon either at the same level or higher. Quoting Nephi, one of the fifteen mini-books that constitute the Book of Mormon, “we should not assume that the Bible is all we need… we should not think that the Bible contains all God’s words; neither need we suppose that God has not caused more to be written.” Incidentally, in its discussion of a people group referred as the Lamanites, the mini-book Nephi speaks of this people group as being white at some point but then developed a black skin color as a result of God’s punishment. It is also in the same mini-book that intermarriage between Black and White is discouraged.
The second set of remarks were reported today (April 18th 2012) by the Associated press. In endorsing Romney over President Obama Jeffries still maintains that Mormons are not Christians. Even so he urges Christians to support the presumptive Republican presidential nominee because Obama, whom he acknowledges is a Christian, “embraces non-biblical principles while Romney embraces biblical principles like the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage.” The implications here are three-fold: (a) Obama’s stance on marriage and Life of the unborn is unbiblical (b) Obama does not embrace any biblical principals whatsoever and (c) none of Romney’s stances can be evaluated as unbiblical.
I see eye to eye with the Pastor on his implication that President Obama does not embrace the sanctity of marriage. A case in point is the President’s unwillingness to defend DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in court. DOMA, passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 defines marriage as a legal union of one man and one woman. Under the law, no state or other political subdivision of the U.S. may be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state. Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriage for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social security survivors’ benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns.
The President has demonstrated the audacity to stand up to the Supreme Court on its ruling on Citizen’s United v Federal Election Commission and recently on the Court’s arguments about the healthcare. Unfortunately when it comes to abortion he is willing to go along with Roe v Wade—even commemorating its anniversary. As such we are in agreement with the Pastor that Obama is certainly not anti-abortion notwithstanding the executive order he signed banning the use of federal money to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or if the life of a woman is in danger. The signature was a trade-off for support for the healthcare overhaul bill from Democratic abortion rights opponents’ in the House of Representatives.
We question the veracity of the remaining two implications, viz., Obama does not exhibit any biblical principals whatsoever and none of Romney’s stances can be evaluated as unbiblical. There is an established biblical precedent for a leading figure of a nation to acknowledge national faults. Daniel 9 comes to mind where in verse 5 Daniel, who was both a functionary in the upper echelon of the Babylonian Government and a luminary in the Jewish circles, admits without any reservation or qualification that his people had “sinned and done wrong, and acted wickedly…” Ezra, another leading figure among the Jews in Exile, expresses similar acknowledgement (9:6). The so-called Apology tours that Romney ridicules and assumably would not engage in judging by the title of his book, “No apologies: A case for America’s Greatness” mimic the acknowledgments of the faults of a nation by both Daniel and Ezra except that these two expressed these admission in the context of private confession before God whereas President Obama has owned up to America’s fault in public speeches.
A read through the Bible confirms the characterization that God above is very much pro-poor people. Through His Word, the Lord calls on us to (a) provide for the needy (Deut 15:11)—not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards them (Deut 15:17); treat them fairly and justly—not withholding their wages (Deut 24:14); defend their rights (Prov 31:19)—not oppress them (Prov 14:31); be considerate of them (Lev 14:21). Failure by a society to be similarly pro-poor people attracts divine condemnation and is considered wicked (Prov 29:7). But to a society that shows generosity towards the poor, the Lord promises compensation (Prov 19:17) and blessing (Prov 22:9), surplus (Prov 28:27). I find it very curious that Governor Romney’s website does not address poverty considering that the jobless rate will never approach zero percent. The White House website, on the other hand, includes a link on poverty and within it reminds us for the American Recovery and Reinvestment act which included broad investments to alleviate the poverty made worse by the economic crisis.
In the end it is our conclusion that since Pastor Jeffress twin-implications that Obama does not exhibit any biblical principals whatsoever and none of Romney’s stances can be evaluated as unbiblical are false, Christians should ignore his heed that they support Mormon Romney over Christian Obama.
How much a reader identifies with a particular aspect of Scripture depends on the extent to which the reader has actually experienced that facet. The less the overlap between a text and the reader’s experience, the less the reader will identify with the verse. Conversely, the greater the overlap between the text and the reader’s experience, the more the identification.
This linkage or lack thereof between experience and identification ought not to be confounded with reader response hermeneutics. In the latter, the reader’s experience shapes his or her interpretation. In the former, the reader’s repertoire of experience, while it does not correlate with his or her ability to understand or interpret, either enhances or dilutes his or her appreciation.
In the same way that, for instance, the story of the betrayal of Jesus will resonate with one who has experienced betrayal or a woman who has experienced vaginal birth will identify with biblical references to birth pangs, I find myself riveted to stories of immigrants in the bible for the simple reason that I too am an immigrant. I invite my fellow aliens to join me in a discussion of immigrants in the Bible; circumstances surrounding their immigration and lessons and principles that they present us based on their experiences abroad. First in our list is an “Iraqi” (ancient Ur of the Chaldeans or Mesopotamia) triad whose ultimate destination even though they did not know until they arrived was a region that includes present-day Israel.
The Triad of Abraham, Sarah, and Lot
Circumstances Surrounding their Immigration
Not many of us would claim to have been recipients of a crystal clear divine address instructing us to proceed abroad and tying our obedience with promises of massive lineage, name recognition, and translation into a conduit of blessing as was the case with Abram (cf., Gen 12:1). Similarly very few of us, if any at all, boarded our means of transport without knowledge of what county we were heading to as was the case with Abram (see Heb 11:8).
Having said that there are some who, even though they may not claim to have heard the voice of God’s, will testify to the workings of God that transformed their immigration from a wish to reality. I remember making a deal with God that I would only travel if my wife also got a visa. I interpreted the visa issuance as the green light from heaven.
Speaking of spouse, there are those among us who dig Sarah in that like her they tied the knot with their sweethearts at home and then accompanied their spouses or there are those who feel Lot in the sense that like he they accompanied a relative abroad. A far bigger percentage of us are able to sympathize with the psychological struggle and emotional turmoil that the twosome would have gone through in their decision to move away from a surrounding that they had gotten used to and settled in for at least sixty years. Abraham was seventy-five years old when he left for Canaan (Gen 12:4). Sarah was ten years his junior (Gen 17:17). Even more torturous is the realization that Abraham’s daddy, Terah, passed away while Abraham was abroad (cf. Heb 11:32) and there is no evidence that the son experienced the closure like one would if he or she goes back for the funeral or sits over the grave and cries to tearlessness. How my heart goes out to Abraham. While overseas we lost our third born brother. Sometime later our last-born brother passed away. About a year ago my mum slipped into eternity.
Lessons and Principles
There is time to share space and time to amicably part ways
Whether the space is pastureland, as was the case with the triad of Abram, Sarai and Lot or a crib, as would be our case, how long the host continues to share space with a brand new arrival, who would most probably be a relative or an old acquaintance, depends on how soon the stay hits the tipping point. For the triad, the deal breaker was strife caused by too much livestock in too little pastureland (Gen 13:6-7). For us the tipping point may be any number of things—the guest’s unwillingness to share in domestic chores or, when able, failure by the person being hosted to contribute financially towards the day-to-day household expenditures, feelings of “suffocation” because the visitor is overstaying his or her welcome, growing signs of contempt bred by familiarity, etc.
The challenge posed to us by the triad is to part ways with the person we have been hosting without jarring the relationship. A sure way of ensuring that the relational ties remains intact is to foster the necessary conditions that will allow for soft-landing for the guest on his or her way out. Abraham soft-landed Lot when he allowed him to go first in choosing the land that he would settle in (Gen 13:9).
Twice I have hosted a relative and in both instances I did provide a soft-landing for the individuals on their way out. I did not part ways with the guests until they found another place to move into. I was willing to part with items such as utensils, sheets, and blankets that I knew my departing guests would need as they settled in their new location. Because I fostered the conditions for soft-landing my relationship with these two individuals has remained intact and healthy.
Deception for the sake of self-preservation spells JEOPARDY
If you haven’t lied of late, it may just be that your existence has not been threatened. The truth of the matter is that we are most tempted to lie when our own survival is at stake. The sole reason for Abram pulling wool over the eyes of Egyptians was self-preservation (Gen 12:12-13). Unfortunately, while the fraud may win you a new lease in life, it does place other aspects of your life in jeopardy. Abraham lived to see another day but he faced the possibility of living the rest of that life without his wife who were it not for God’s intervention would have become Pharaoh’s wife.
Think of all the lies that some of us have engaged in abroad when things dear to us as life itself have threatened to slip away from or elude us; such things as the opportunity to work or the chance to regain, maintain, or upgrade legal status. Now think of what we have placed at risk as a result of our lies. Misrepresenting your status to gain employment may earn you the money that you desperately yearn for but it does block employer-based path to permanent residency since you can’t have your cake and eat it too. As a believer divorcing your spouse in order to marry a citizen causes both you and the divorcée “to commit adultery.” (Matt. 5:32; Luke 16:18). Not to mention that if the ruse is uncovered you risk being fired, incarcerated, or even repatriated.
A Homeward Orientation inclines us to tune in to the news at home
Whether we tune in to or tune out the current affairs at home depends on whether we continue to possess or have lost a homeward orientation. In the person of Abraham, homeward orientation manifested itself in his strong desire, which he was careful to make known in his last will and testament, that his son Isaac only marry a woman from his homeland (Gen 24:1-4). Little wonder then that Abraham had his ear on the ground long enough to know the latest update on the family situation of his brother (Nahor) back at home (Gen 22:20-22). This update was crucial because as it turns out Bethuel, one of the several sons born to Nahor, became a father of a girl (Rebekah) who later on would become the wife of Isaac and in so doing fulfill the desire that Abraham had expressed in his will.
Homeward orientation for many of us exists for the simple reason that we still have loved ones back at home. Because of the presence of these loved ones at home we find ourselves continuously praying for the prosperity of our homelands since in the words of the prophet Jeremiah “in its welfare” our relatives will find their welfare (Jer. 29:7). Besides praying we call or text or facebook or google just to know what’s going down at home.
Declare your preferred burial location whether abroad or at home
All of us abroad will be buried either at home or in Diaspora. The question is whether we will have made our preference known prior to passing on. By not making our preference known before death we are delegating the decision-making process to someone else. Abraham seems to have made the decision for Sarah (Gen. 23:19) and by purchasing a burial ground he may have tipped his hand as to his preferred burial location, viz, abroad (Gen 23: 17-18).
Circumstances Surrounding his Immigration
Unlike his great grandfather Abraham who embarked on his trip abroad voluntarily, as a married and a much older man, Joseph arrived in Egypt single and barely eighteen. Did you arrive abroad single and young? Having arrived abroad single, did you then marry a native of your new residence (Gen 41:45), bore children with him or her (v. 50) and learned the language of your adopted home (42:23)? Then Joseph is your parallel. Did you show up abroad against your will? Then you are indeed Joseph-like seeing that according to Joseph’s own characterization and the narrator’s account, he was a victim of kidnap (Gen 40:15) and was forcibly transported as a slave (37:27-28) much like the victims of transatlantic slavery who were shipped against their will from Africa to the Americas and Europe in the 1400s onwards.
Lessons and Principles
We can rely solely on God for our success at our station abroad
The “world” that 1 Jn 2:15-16 beseeches us not to love (“… all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world”), Rom 12:2 urges us not to conform to and James 4:4 warns us not to befriend (“Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God”)—that world would have us believe that the highway to success consists of a single lane along which an eye-catching billboard stands with the following neon message: “ success through all means necessary however unorthodox.” On the other hand, the Bible in general and the story of Joseph in particular, uncovers and points us to an alternate lane above which is calligraphed the countering dictum “ choose to rely on God instead.”
In each of the three stations that Joseph finds himself, the Bible records that, yes, he experienced success but more relevantly the success is considered the event with God as the cause. As a domestic worker in Portiphar’s residence, “the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man” (Gen 39:2, cf. vv 3-4). As a convict in the King’s prison “… the Lord was with him; and whatever he did the Lord made it prosper” (39:23). At the top of his game as a civil servant, Joseph testifies as such: “… God… has made me a father to Pharaoh, the lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Gen 45:8).
Reliance in God is not incompatible with our responsibility to take the necessary and orthodox steps to enhance our success at our station abroad
As much as the Bible attributes Joseph’s success to God, the same Bible paints a picture of a Joseph not passively waiting on God for a job but actively taking two necessary and orthodox steps that enhance anybody’s chances of both getting and staying hired.
One of the steps is networking. The dictionary defines networking as the act of cultivating “people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position.” It all boils down to developing friendships and establishing rapports with people around you. The conversation that Joseph struck with a downcast baker while the two were confined (Gen 40:7) and the relationship that this rapport must have ushered proved advantageous to Joseph later on when the now reinstated baker sensed the need to return a favor by mentioning Joseph favorably to the King (Gen 41:9).
The other step is providing your potential boss with a cogent reason as to why the company will benefit from your hire. In the case of Joseph his God-given ability to interpret dreams earned him an audience with the King (Gen 41:14) and his astute proposal in light of the forthcoming drought so impressed the King hired him as the CEO of the “famine curbing initiative” (vv 33-44).
Our success abroad should translate into our assisting our families and relatives at home
A report by the World Bank and African Development Bank on remittances to Africa from Diaspora clearly shows that I am really preaching to the choir on the issue of the Diaspora providing assistance to families and relatives at home. African countries received a staggering US $406 billion from remittances from abroad in 2010, the largest net inflow of foreign funds after Foreign Direct Investment. To this end we are most Joseph-like in the sense that Joseph leveraged his influence and success to facilitate the exodus of Jacob (Israel) and his seventy descendants away from famine-ravished Canaan to the bread basket of the world at that time.
The Rest of the Jacob family and the generations following
Circumstances Surrounding their Immigration
With reports of famine in certain parts of the world, it should not surprise us that, as was the case with the Jacob family, food scarcity may be a reason why some of us headed abroad. Personally the decision to leave home was provoked by a paucity of a different sought, viz., scarcity of higher education opportunity due to unavailability of a preferred program (having obtained a Masters in Divinity and desiring to further my education possibly to a doctoral level neither of the two post-graduate schools offering theological degrees in my homeland at that time had in place a doctoral program). Lack of scholarship and imbalance between the number of qualified candidates and the enrollment capacity of the educational institutions are the other reasons why higher education is out of reach for many. A friend of mine was driven abroad by yet another kind of famine—scarcity of jobs. Despite having matriculated from a reputable university with a degree in architecture, he could not find a job
Lessons and Principles
Heads-up, anti-immigration sentiments are as old as Moses
Besides perennial racism, there are at least four moments when societies turn antipathetic towards the immigrant population in their midst: (a) times of elevated unemployment rate resulting in competition for limited job openings (b) periods of budgetary strains leading to a scramble for social services (c) break out of war or hostility causing a build-up of suspicion of a particular immigrant group due to the existence of ethnic or religious ties between the group and the enemy (d) when the immigrant population approaches or turns majority raising fears of loss of cultural identity.
Exponential increase in the population of immigrants and the accompanying possibility of aliens joining forces with the enemy and effectuating their own exodus was the alarming factor some 300 years after the death of Joseph and the rest of the first generation immigrants to Egypt (Exod 1:9). In response Egypt sought to stem the alien population growth by initially subjecting the immigrants to harsh labor (1:11) and when this measure proved counter-productive, the King resorted to infanticide (1:16).
While the killing of the newborn as a measure of curtailing immigrant population is not on the table in America, it is interesting that groups that seek to freeze the number of immigrants who are eligible to vote seek to re-write the 1886 citizen clause of the 14th amendment so as to exclude infants born to a couple who reside illegally in the country.
Keep the faith, Our God is the God of the Exodus
Going with the general definition of a prison as “any place of confinement” Egypt became a prison the moment her King betrayed his desire to thwart the possible departure of the Hebrew Immigrants (1:10). In the same way that the descendants of Jacob became victims of Egyptian internment, so do many immigrants abroad feel hemmed in their host countries by factors that include lack of airfare, unwillingness to relocate prematurely, and the recognition that their host countries will not reissue permission to come back. Exodus for these would take the form of financial ability to exit at the time of their choosing and the assurance of returning if they so desire.
The Quartet: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
Circumstances Surrounding their Immigration
The manner in which the Quartet arrived abroad compares with Joseph’s involuntary trip to Egypt. The four were part of the inhabitants of Judah forcibly carried away to Babylon after the Lord allowed Jerusalem and her King Jehoiakim to fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim alias Eliakim succeeded his brother Jehoahaz as King of Judah after the latter was deposed by Pharaoh Neco and taken away to Egypt in 608 BC (2 Kings 23:34). After three years of vassallage, Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1). In turn Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, besieged it, and after it fell, confiscated some of the vessels of the temple and carried off a portion of the population (Dan 1:1-2) (cf. Jer 25:9) (Ezek 23:22-25). Where the trip of the tetrad differs from Joseph’s is the reason. Joseph was sold to slave traders out of hatred. The deportation of Judah was due to the sins of Manasseh (2 kings 24:3; cf 2 kings 21:1-17) and the wickedness of Judah as a whole (Jer 25:5-7; cf Ezek 22: 6-15; 36: 17-19; 39:23).
Lessons and Principles
With God as the wind beneath our wings, upward mobility within our line of work is ours to experience
The foursome started off their career as trainees. Don’t we all? For some its on-the-job training or boot-camp. For others it’s a certification training program . For yet others its an associate or undergraduate degree. The prerequisite for admission to the State-sponsored training included perfect physique, handsomeness, knowledgeableness, a knack for code-cracking Intel, and insightfulness (Dan 1:4). The training itself was to last 3 years. The curriculum included Chaldean Literature and language. Scholarship was available in the form of free boarding, food and wine (Dan 1:5).
As a side note you know you are abroad if your name(s) is (are) subjected to any or all of the following treatments: (a) the nomenclature of the host country overrides yours (since I am “Nicholas Oyugi Odhiambo,” my tribe’s naming system calls for my wife and my kids to pick up only my middle name; yet my student visa reached me by mail with both my middle name and surname attached to her first name; she could just as well be married to my dad now), (b) mis-spelt (I can’t tell you how many time packages has arrived with my name mis-spelt as Odihambo), (c) mispronounced (the “dh” in Odhiambo is supposed to sound as “th” in the word “another” and not a “d” as in the word “door”), (d) shortened either because its too long or too hard to pronounce (so now they call me Mr “O”), or (e) replaced altogether by a local name, thereby camouflaging your original identity. Joseph was on the receiving end of this last treatment. Pharaoh renamed him Zaphenath-paneah. The Quartet were treated likewise. Daniel (“God is judge”) became Belteshazzar (a name associated with a Babylonian god (cf., Dan 4:8), Hananiah (“Yahweh has been gracious”) was renamed Shadrach, Mishael (“who is God”) was now being referred to as Meshach, and Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”) was forced to answer to Abednego. A modern-day example of name change is this gentleman: His childhood friends knew him as Stephen Cherono. Today, thanks to an alleged one million Kenya shillings for switching citizenship and more thanks to efforts by Qatar to arabize and may be even Islamize him, he now goes by the Arabic name Saif (“sword”) Saaeed Shaheen
Upon successful completion of their training, the four amigos were posted at the equivalent of the Office of the President. A year later, in a process only attributable to God, Daniel received his first promotion (Dan 2:48). This is how the God-engendered promotion went down. The Head of State experienced a dream whose meaning he could not unpack. Clueless about the meaning and thus vulnerable to deception by the government-employed code-crackers in the Department of Intelligence, the President tied the credibility of their interpretation to the verifiable challenge of correctly divining the content of his dream. Meeting this challenge served as the basis of Daniel’s promotion. But credit for the ability to meet this particular challenge was given to Deity both by the Babylonian wise-men (v. 11) and by Daniel himself (vv. 19, 28). Four Babylonian Presidents later, Daniel would receive yet another promotion. This time he would be elevated to a position two people away from the presidency– the equivalence of Speaker today (5:29). The basis for the promotion was his ability to decipher the meaning of mene, mene, tekel, parsin (vv 26-28). But even this time this ability is ultimately ascribed to “spirits of the gods” that indwelt Daniel (v. 14).
We should be willing to expose ourselves to harm, even bodily harm, in our determination to remain true to our walk with God
At the same time that Daniel received his first promotion, his three friends were similarly elevated on the strength of Daniel’s recommendation. But unlike Daniel who remained stationed at the King’s Palace (2:49), the trio was sent to the field as administrators. It was while they where out there that the President convoked his whole administration to a dedicatory event whose agenda, as pronounced by the Presidents via the Master of Ceremony, ran counter to the first two commandments. Rather than obey His Excellency and in effect break the commandments, the three, who at this point were being referred to by their given names, made the difficult choice of disobeying the King and by so doing expose themselves to serious harm (3:16-18). A number of decades later, Daniel would be faced with the same twin choices of either compromising his walk with God and escape harm or stay true to his walk with God and suffer harm. He chose the lion’s den instead (Dan 6).
Esther and Mordecai
Circumstances Surrounding their Immigration
Every immigrant can be classified as either second generation and beyond, meaning the person was born abroad or (b) first generation, indicating that the person personally undertook the trip abroad. The term 1.5 generation refers to minors who have made their way abroad usually in the company of an adult parent or relative. Most of the immigrants that have featured in our discussion so far were either first generation (e.g., Abraham, the Jacob family, Daniel and his three friends) or 1.5 generation (e.g., Lot, Joseph, Jacob’s little ones [Gen 46:5]). But we did come across a group that fits the category of second generation and beyond, viz., members of the lineage of Jacob who were born in Egypt. Prominent members of this group include Moses and his two siblings, Aaron and Miriam.
Like Moses in Egypt, Esther and Mordecai in Persia belong to the category of second generation and beyond. Specifically the two were fourth generation. Their respective dads (Abihail and Jair), who would have been third generation, were brothers. It was the grandfather of these two siblings who was first generation having being brought to Babylon as a captive alongside King Jeconiah in 598 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar.
Lessons and Principles
A tip on how to approach a job interview: Don’t ask, don’t tell
A vacancy arose for the position of First Lady to King Ahaseurus (aka Xerxes) following the dismissal of Queen Vashti (Esther 1:19-22). An advert went up. The qualifications were three-fold: young, beautiful, virgin (2:2). Believing that she fitted the bill, Esther answered the Ad most probably under her Persian name, Esther, not her Jewish name, Hadassah. And when it came to the interview itself, she followed her adopter-coach’s tip not to volunteer information about her Jewish background, revelation of which we can only suspect would have been an immediate disqualifier (v 10).
Advocates of Immigrants’ Rights and Welfare, please raise your hands
Look around and note whose hand is raised alongside yours. Moses has his hand up and rightly so. The marching orders he receives from Yahweh could not be any more advocative: “I have observed the misery of my people …; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them …, and to bring them up out … So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (Exod 3:7-8,10). And my-my, did he leave up to expectation! Twelve times he and his brother appeared before Pharoah to demand release from captivity (5:1-4; 7:10-13; 20-23; 8:8-12; 25-30; 9:27-33; 10:3-6; 8-11; 16-18; 24-29; 11:4-8; 12:31-32).
Esther also has her hand raised. Frightened at first to step into the role of an advocate for the assignment sometimes carries with it a price tag that can be too high to pay, she finally did under the goad of her cousin Mordecai. Listen to her plead her case on behalf of her fellow immigrants: “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” (Esther 7:3-4)
God’s instruction to you and me is that we not wink at the enemy, especially if the winking is meant to convey friendliness. By enemy we are referring, of course, to the saboteur, the frustrator of our walk with God.
God’s instruction to you and me is that we, instead, be lethally ruthless, fatally ruthless, mortally ruthless with the enemy. We choose to be accommodating of the enemy, we choose to toy with the enemy, we choose to cuddle with the enemy to our own spiritual detriment.
For the children of Israel, the enemy, the saboteur of their worship of and service to the one and only true God—the saboteur was embodied in one, any or all of the “ites” (Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites). These “ites” the Bible exposes as the source of Israel’s allurement away from the worship of the true God and towards the worship of other gods (cf Deut 7:4a; cf 20:18a). Against these “ites” the Lord instructs Israel to “utterly destroy them” (Deut 7:2).
Now, numerous times Israel heeded the instruction to utterly destroy as in the case of Jericho for instance (Josh 6:21) or Makkeday (Josh 10:28) or Eglon (Josh 10:34-35) or Hebron (Josh 10:36-37). Israel was lethally, fatally, mortally ruthless with the enemy.
However there were also numerous times when Israel failed to heed the instruction to utterly destroy (Judges 1:21, 27, 28-33). Instead, the chose to wink, to be accommodative of the enemy, to toy with the enemy, to cuddle with the enemy.
The story of Ehud begins with the winky phase:
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD (Judg 3:12a). Show me the outworking or display of sin, and i will pinpoint for you the moment some winking took place. Sin follows on the heels of the wink. So if Israel did evil, its because they winked.
The winky phase gave way to the “whipy” phase: …
the LORD strengthened King Eglon of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. Judg. In alliance with the Ammonites and the Amalekites, he went and defeated Israel; and they took possession of the city of palms. So the Israelites served King Eglon of Moab eighteen years (Judg 3:12-14).
The “whipy” phase ushered in the “weepy” phase:
…the Israelites cried out to the LORD (3:15), Weeping in the book of Judges elicited divine mercy which expressed itself through the provision of a deliverer. This time the deliverer was a left-handed man by the name of Ehud. The face of the oppressor from whom Israel needed deliverance was a morbidly obese character by the name of King Eglon. To cut a long story short, Ehud … reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly; the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the dirt came out (Judg 3:21-22).
The lesson that I draw from this story is ruthless dealing with the enemy. Matt. 5:29 states that “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Don Clark was a bespectacled lecturer during my days at NIST. Don was weird, so we thought. Anytime he was about to cross paths with a woman, gorgeous or not, Don would remove his glasses so he would not have to stare at the woman’s body. That was Don’s way of tearing his eyes. That was his way of dealing ruthlessly with the enemy, in this case the eye that would potentially cause him to sin.
How ruthless are you, how ruthless am I when it comes to sin in all its various forms?
If you asked Daniel his name, and if you asked runner # 693 his name, both of them would express hesitation. Runner # 693 childhood friends knew him as Stephen Cherono. Today, thanks to an alleged one million Kenya shillings to switch citizenship and more thanks to efforts by Qatar to arabize and may be even Islamize him, he now goes by the Arabic name Saif (“sword”) Saaeed Shaheen.
Same thing with Daniel. He grew up as Daniel. The “el” at the end of Daniel just like the “el” at the end his buddy’s name Mishael or the “yah” at end of the names of his other two buddies, Hananiah and Azariah is an abbreviation of Elohim or Yahweh.
In Babylon (present-day Iraq), Daniel was rebaptized “Belshazzar.” “Bel” is the name of one of the gods worshipped over here.
Tell me that this name change was not an attempt erase Daniel’s Jewishness and possibly convert him to the dominant religion over here
How long did Daniel live in Babylon?
A good 46 years. He witnessed one colonial power (Babylon) rise and fall and a new colonial power (Media-Persia) rise in its place. He watched a dynasty come and go. Granted the dynasty began before he arrived in Babylon. He watched it continued by King Nebucahdnezzar (605-562), then Nebuchadnezzar’s son Evil-Marduk (562-560), then the brother-in-law of Evil-Marduk by the name of Neriglissar (560-556), then the son of Neriglissar, Labasi-Marduk (556), and finally Belshazzar.
What was his educational background?
He was alumni of the equivalent of Moi university or Kenyatta university except that his alma mater is called Nebuchadnezzar university. He majored in both literature and linguistics. As a result of his linguistic training he was tri-lingual. He spoke Akkadian, Aramaic and Hebrew.
Any college experience?
We know that while in college, he and his three buddies entered a fat and handsome contest and won. (Dan 1:10-15).
One word that describes him?
Fore-teller. Much of the material that makes up the book of Daniel can be classified as prophetic dreams or visions. Some of the prophecies were fulfilled right away (e.g., Dan 4:10-16; 5:25-28). Others were fulfilled later (e.g., Dan 11:2-4)
He started off as part of the President’s staff (Dan 1:19), and very quickly rose up the ranks first as head of intelligence (2:48) and finally speaker of the house (Dan 5:29: “third” from the presidency)
Someone has suggested the acronym ACTS to remind us of the different aspects of prayer. Daniel’s legacy is in modeling more than ACTS. He tried to model PFACTS. “P” stands for posture (Dan 6:10 “… go down on his knees); “F” stands for frequently (Dan 6:10 … three time a day to pray; “A” stands for Adoration (Praise (Dan 2:20-22); “C” stands for confession (Confession, Intercession (Dan 9:4-20); “T” stands for Thanksgiving (Dan 2:23); and “S” stands for supplication (Petition (Dan 2:18)
Secondly, He modeled what is expected of a believer in the work place: “spirit of excellence” (Dan 6:3); Incorruptible; Faithful, No evidence of dereliction (Dan 6:4)
Lastly, He is remembered as one who lived out my faith no matter what, not when it was convenient
In the tangible world of our existence (this would also be true of the non-tangible realm), there is a set pyramidal order, a divinely established hierarchy with the trinity (Father-Son-Holy Ghost) at the uppermost echelon (the pinnacle, the preeminent spot), and the homo sapiens and angelic beings below not necessarily in that order. Tied to the set pyramidal order are
(a) established responses. An example of an established response is men are meant to be worshippers, while God is the object of our worship.
(b) established roles. An example of an established role is Human beings are regarded as servants, while God is master.
Speaking of servanthood, Jer 27 tags Nebuchadnezzar with the “servant” label (read Jer 27:1-8). Who else is referred to as a servant? Paul was a servant of the Lord. So was Peter, Jude, Epaphras, Timothy, James, Moses, John. Jesus was a servant. Raggs is a servant, so is Sam, Nicholas and James.
Going back to the pyramidal concept, God could easily have set the pyramid in stone but because Yahweh has conferred to humanity free will, the order or hierarchy is set in malleable play dough. As malleable as the pyramid is, it is not to be tampered with. It is perilous to tamper with the pyramid. You cannot tamper with the pyramid with impunity.
Two ways that we tamper with the pyramid:
(1) We tamper with the pyramid every time we take the glory for an accomplishment that is clearly attributable to God. Daniel serves an example of someone who was careful not to take the glory (2:21-23; 27-28), Nebuchadnezzar is an example of someone who did take the glory (Dan 2:37; 4:17, 25, 29-30). For taking the glory, for tampering with the pyramid, he was punished (4:31-33).
(2) We tamper with the pyramid when we substitute God with another object of worship (Dan 3:1, 4-6). Idolatry may not be the sin that so easily besets you and me (even though I wonder whether we are not engaging in idolatry when we say “so and so is my idol”), but anytime we are fixiated with a certain goal or desire and if meeting the goal or satisfying the desire means breaking all the commandments and we are still willing to meet the goal or satisfy the desire, then God is no longer the object of our worship, the goal or the desire is.